Late last week I got the mail and was happy to find a letter in the box asking me to come to immigration to collect my working holiday visa! Great news for me as it means that I can now start the not at all stressful task of looking for a job.. I was really happy to get this but another feeling I had was relief. I was relieved that I’d managed to include all the right information for my application and displayed it in the right way. In the couple of weeks it took to process my application I was all kinds of nervous.
There’s guidance notes for filling in your application, but there’s a few things that aren’t clear and for some reason I couldn’t find ANY answers online from other people who had been in my position. Luckily I have a friend who went through the process last year, otherwise I would have probably done everything wrong.
So, as I just love helping people, I decided to do a write up of the things on the application that aren’t so clear.
First of all, the working holiday visa is for people aged 18-30 who want the option of working in Hong Kong for a year. They will only give you a year and this can’t be extended but I guess I’ll cross that rickety little bridge when I come to it. The scheme is available to people from a range of different countries but not ALL countries so check out the website to see if you’re eligible. Also, things vary depending on your home country such as fees and eligibility criteria – here’s a link to it all.
I’m going to be really rude and pretend that everybody reading this is British and say well done, because you were born British you get the joy of being able to work for one company for the whole 12 months of your working visa, unlike the other eligible countries who only get 3 months with the same employer. The same goes for studying if you choose to do that as well/instead.
The application is pretty straight forward, they ask for your personal details and if you have a reference in Hong Kong – filling the form in is easy. Obviously, you can do that application whilst you’re in Hong Kong, just make sure you put your Hong Kong address on the form as your current address – I was tempted to put my British address down because I wasn’t sure that you could apply whilst in the country, however, if I’d done that my visa obviously would have gone to England making it pretty hard for me to activate it (my brain is stupid sometimes). One of the sections asks for your permanent address, which would in fact be your address back home, I panicked and left it empty (I worried they may send my visa to England..) evidently this wasn’t a problem as I now have my visa.
Most of my angst came from the supporting documents section. I had to convince them I had enough money to survive for 12 months, which I totally did not have. A couple of months of buying the best quality beef to spit roast in our oven soon got rid of my little pot of cash. British citizens need to show they have at least $22000 HKD (approx 1881.213 British Pound Sterling – thanks Google) in the bank by sending a bank statement (Again, here’s the link with the details for other nationalities). We quickly transferred some money into my account and then I did an online banking screenshot of my savings account, it didn’t show any account numbers or even my name. It was just a page that said ‘Santander’ on it and a sum of money. I didn’t want to send in a document with personal details like my sort code, account number or recent transactions so took a risk with the bare minimum. I also had more in there than the minimum amount as I needed to prove I have sufficient funds to travel back as I don’t have a return plane ticket.
Another confusing part of the application was the need for health and hospitalization insurance. It goes without saying that you need insurance, but I wasn’t clear on what I needed to send in for proof. That got me thinking about people applying from overseas, a years worth of insurance isn’t cheap and a lot of people wouldn’t want to purchase it in order to apply for a visa that they’re not definitely going to get. Paul and I looked at the phrasing and pulled it apart and realised it just says ‘agrees to hold medical…’ etc. So that’s all I did, I wrote a short note saying I agree to get cover should I be granted the visa and signed it. I was pulling my hair out wondering what HK immigration expected of people in order to apply for a visa and it was as simple as writing a note. Again, this is simple for Brits, there’s a few countries where you have to actually send in proof of already holding the cover, but if it’s a lot of money to shell out I’m sure you could take it out and cancel within the cooling off period, and then take it out again when your visa is confirmed.
Those are the main issues I had with the process, I imagine nobody else had these problems and that I’m a massive worrier but I hope this might help someone else who’s applying and is worrying like I did. I know there’s not much information out there, or maybe there is and I just couldn’t find it.
When you receive your visa in the post, you stick it into your passport and make sure to get it stamped when you enter Hong Kong. If you’re already here you’re going to make a trip to immigration tower in Wanchai to pick your visa up – take your passport, the letter might not say you need your passport, but you do. I didn’t take mine initially and ended up rushing between Happy Valley and Causeway bay to get back bt 4.30pm. You’re most likely going to be heading to floor 24 to pick up your visa, but check your letter, it will say the floor and counter number in the top left hand corner.. another detail I missed. I’m starting to think I’m not as smart as I once thought.. Anyway, after you pick up your documents you’ll need to go to Macau to activate your visa.
If you’re not sure when you’re travelling but want to apply early for your visa don’t worry, you get 3 months to activate it and your 12 months starts from your date of entry. So, for instance, even though I got my visa last Friday, if I go to Macau and back on March 4th, my 12 months will be from March 4th. So it’s pretty flexible if your plans aren’t set in stone. That also means that whilst you’re job hunting you can take advantage of that period as it may take a little while to find a job, you’re not going to waste valuable time on your visa.
The next step is to go and get your Hong Kong ID card – that’s my next step. So more info on that later but I think that part is pretty straight forward!
I’m not the best at writing things up, I’m sure it’s a bit higgledy piggledy but I just type it as it comes out of my head. There’s no order in my brain. Chaos. Anyway, if anyone has a question just let me know and I’ll try to help.. I’ll update this if I think of anything further.
One very happy, work-eligible Sarah!